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Why do business men hold hands in Dubai?

June 27, 2019

 

Dear Someone Else’s Dad,

I have heard that in Dubai, where I’ll be attending meetings soon, business men hold hands while walking down the street.  Should I allow another man to take my hand or would that be just too weird for an all-American Texas guy like me?

Thanks,
Not That There’s Anything Wrong

 

Dear Wrong,

I applaud you for questioning business customs and being prepared to work in other parts of the world.  Arab culture is certainly different from “all-American” culture, Texan or otherwise. In fact I’d highly recommend not hosting a Texas pork BBQ event for business guests from Abu Dhabi.  Holding hands among men in Arab cultures is a sign of a close friendship with no sexual undertones.  While it indeed might seem awkward for you if a colleague in Dubai takes your hand as you walk, you should actually consider it a positive sign that you are working well together.  As an aside, men in Arab countries do not take women’s hands in public.

 

On a related note, a European man recently let me know about attending a meeting in an Arab country when suddenly they all heard one of the daily calls to prayer. He said that the team members stopped speaking, looked at one another to see if anyone needed to put the meeting on hold, and when no one did, just continued the meeting. The visiting team members showed respect for the local culture, then followed the host’s lead.

 

As a fellow American, I’d be happy to partake in Texas BBQ…

Best,
SED

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